skip to main content
EU Work-Life Balance Tilts Against Women, Single Parents

EU Work-Life Balance Tilts Against Women, Single Parents

One in seven residents say combining work and family life is very difficult

by John Chapman and Femke De Keulenaer

BRUSSELS -- Half of EU residents (51%) Gallup surveyed in September 2008 said they find it difficult to combine work and family life. One in seven (14%) respondents from the 27 EU member states surveyed said they personally find this "very difficult"; roughly 1 in 10 (11%) said this is "very easy."


Residents of Nordic countries stand out among EU member states, with just 20% of Finns, 34% of Danes, and 35% of Swedes finding it ("very" or "fairly") difficult to combine their working lives with family responsibilities. Northern European countries such as the United Kingdom (32%), Ireland (32%), and the Netherlands (20%) also had relatively few respondents saying it is a challenge to find the right balance. The five EU member states with the most respondents citing problems in this domain are in the southern and eastern parts of Europe, with Hungarian and Portuguese respondents reporting the most trouble: 77% and 72%, respectively, said they find it difficult to combine work and family life.

5fezmwu__0ea5haplciqdg 4vig_z7t_ka8p26tqmnuxw

Women and Single Parents Struggling Most

Looking at gender differences, 55% of women in the EU said they find it very or fairly difficult to combine work and family life, while 46% of the men said the same. Furthermore, respondents in couple households, without children living at home, were the most likely to find it very or fairly easy to combine family and work (46%), while single-parent households and those consisting of married/cohabiting couples with children were the most likely to report difficulties (55% and 54%, respectively). Members of the former, however, were more likely to find it very difficult (20% vs. 14% of couples with children) to combine family and work responsibilities.


Child Care Challenges

Lack of adequate child care is another aspect of life that can cause problems for many families. The survey finds that EU residents are most likely to say an arrangement in which one parent works full-time and the other part-time (41%) is the most practicable and realistic way to combine work and child care. Roughly a quarter preferred a situation in which one parent works full-time and one looks after the children full-time (25%) or both parents work full-time (22%).


At the country level, Danes and Austrians were the most likely to choose the "one full-time, one part-time" option (55% of Danes; 54% of Austrians), while Romanians (16%) and Portuguese (20%) were among the least likely to choose this. While men were more likely than women to answer that it is best for one parent to stay at home full-time to raise the children (27% men vs. 23% of women), women were more likely than men to prefer the situation in which one parent works part-time and the other full-time (44% women vs. 37% of men).


As the previous charts show, less than a quarter (22%) of EU respondents opted for a situation in which -- to balance the demands of work and family -- both parents work full-time. Many respondents in several southern and eastern member states said this situation is the most practicable and realistic way, while far fewer in several northern states chose this option.

aj2dl0gatuc3na619gmr2a ocwoptrlpksd5ny8q9cgrw

Life's Difficulties

The same survey, conducted before the global recession really started to bite, asked respondents to name the main difficulties they thought families could face. The high cost of housing (39%), the high cost of raising children (32%), and the difficulties combining work and family life (25%) were among the most frequently mentioned difficulties. Times are changing rapidly of course, and there is likely more of a realization now that many jobs are not safe and that the outlook is going to be gloomy for some time.


Eurobarometer Reports

Gallup conducts Flash Eurobarometer surveys for the European Commission. These surveys enable European policy-makers to hear the voices of EU residents in the 27 member states. Gallup has worked with the Commission on more than 60 Flash Eurobarometer surveys (with close to 1 million interviews) on subjects from the euro to consumer protection and from higher education to energy policies.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 27,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted Sept. 10-14, 2008 in 27 EU member states. For results, based on the sample in each member state, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030